Background: Previous linkage studies, including a study of the Native American population described in the present report, have provided evidence for linkage of alcohol dependence and related traits to chromosome 4q near a cluster of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) genes, which encode enzymes of alcohol metabolism.
Methods: The present study tested for associations between alcohol dependence and related traits and 22 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) spanning the 7 ADH genes. Participants included 586 adult men and women recruited from 8 contiguous Native American reservations. A structured interview was used to assess DSM-III-R alcohol dependence criteria as well as a set of severe alcohol misuse symptoms and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Results: No evidence for association with the alcohol dependence diagnosis was observed, but an SNP in exon 9 of ADH1B (rs2066702; ADH1B*3) and an SNP at the 5′ end of ADH4 (rs3762894) showed significant evidence of association with the presence of withdrawal symptoms (p = 0.0018 and 0.0012, respectively). Further, a haplotype analysis of these 2 SNPs suggested that the haplotypes containing either of the minor alleles were protective against alcohol withdrawal relative to the ancestral haplotype (p = 0.000006).
Conclusions: These results suggest that variants in the ADH1B and ADH4 genes may be protective against the development of some symptoms associated with alcohol dependence.